magicbaldguy
Feb 6, 2018

Licks in alternate keys

1 comment

When you're playing a song in the key of C, any lick that works in C will also work in G (V) without transposing. But when you play in F (IV), you have to play your licks in the key of F. Whats the rule for the other tones of the scale (ii, iii, vi, vii)?

arthurmigliazza
Mar 26, 2018

Great question! A little background info first for newcomers..

 

When we play a Blues progression "in the key of _____", keep in mind that each chord change (the I, IV, and V) are essentially each in different key signatures. Playing a blues "in the key of C" for example, only means that the chord changes are based off of the key of C ... the I chord = C; the IV chord = F, the V chord = G. The "key signature", however, changes for each chord change, so you are essentially playing in 3 different keys when you play a blues progression. Hardly any blues player thinks of it like this, but this is what is happening.

 

Example: I chord = C7 (you have one flat - Bb) / IV chord = F7 (you have two flats - Bb, Eb) / V chord = G7 (you have no flats)

 

In other words, if you want to play the scale that the F7 chord derives from, it is a Bb major scale (starting on F and going to the next F). Try this by playing an F7 chord in your left hand, and playing the Bb major scale in the right hand (but start on F instead of Bb).

 

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There are two approaches to playing licks throughout a blues progression:

 

1) Physically pick up your hand and move the same voicing of the lick to the new chord. Example: In a Blues in C, on the I chord, Lick #1 starts with C in the thumb. On the IV chord it will start with F in the thumb. On the V chord it will start with G in the thumb.

 

2) Alter the lick and stay in the same position on the keyboard, throughout all the chords of the blues progression. Example for Blues in C: Lick #1, play as is over the I chord / play as is over the IV chord but play an Eb instead of E natural (in other words, flat the 3rd) / play as is in the C position over the V chord (in other words, your left hand will play the bass on G, but your right hand will play the lick as it would over the C chord).

 

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Okay, now getting to your question. These little "tricks" can only be generalized as a rule for a standard 3-chord blues progression. HOWEVER, if you are playing older "pop" blues from the 1920's which have a lot of chord changes, or any kind of other genre like pop tunes (Georgia on My Mind) or New Orleans R&B tunes, or Jazz / Swing tunes ... then you will run into the other chords you have mentioned.

 

There are no tricks for playing over these chords that I know of. However, if you listen to what other people do over these chords (especially minor chords) you will find it's mostly scale based (Lick #7 or #8). Lick #7 (and any licks you derive from that major blues scale) will work nicely over diatonic iii - vi - ii - V chord progressions (remember, lower case roman numerals mean minor chords).

 

Often times, there will also be a "common tone" that will sound good over many chord changes. For instance you can sustain a rolling C octave in your right hand, while your left hand walks through C - Amin - Dmin - G7 - C

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